In my last blog I wrote about how the overall mission/primary task is developed. Once settled this kind of focus allows an organisation to clarify what it is going to do over the next few years. While the mission would generally remain constant (at Notting Hill Housing our mission was established in 1963 and has remained very similar ever since), one would expect the strategy to change a little more quickly than that.

Our strategy over the past decade

In order to test this theory I have looked at the headlines of our changing corporate strategy over the past decade or so (while I have been the Chief Executive). Here is what I have found by looking through our Board papers. The list of three to six items are really the top priorities for the Board and staff team, and give a sense of what really matters in terms of what we do.

What struck me immediately was that 2006 was more or less the same as 2016, with slightly different words. Building more homes clearly comes through as a result of our explicit primary task – providing more homes for lower-income Londoners. Increasingly this has been linked with the idea of merger (and other partnerships) as a means to an end of increasing the number of low cost homes.

Asset management is also high on our agenda – this comes from the fact that we hold many assets. Our properties are worth around £11.5bn and how we look after them and use them is central to our strategy – but these properties are also homes and keeping them in good repair very much impacts on our tenants. By committing our attention to “our tenants and their homes” we recognise that tenant satisfaction hinges on the quality and good repair of our flats and houses, and also focus on steady, well managed investment.

The other area that did surprise me was that a decade ago we recognised the need for better IT – a better online offer for tenants and better management information for staff and managers. In the 9 or 10 years in between IT did not feature – probably because while we had aspirations for a great offer and service we did not know how to provide it. We do now.

Short-lived stars

Two areas were short-lived stars. One was the corporate social responsibility idea – as time went on we redefined our whole project as socially beneficial. By concentrating on producing homes we felt this was the best contribution we could make towards both individual well being and stronger communities. Being in London where housing need is acute, and the cost of housing prohibitive, we felt that spending money on homes was the right strategy.

The other idea which faded fast, but may come back, is the idea of building homes outside London. While we pursued some avenues for a period they were not successful. We then “cut our losses” and disposed of our out-of-London stock in order to focus on the capital. We reinvested the proceeds in homes within London.

“We innovate in the face of difficulty.”

Strong finances are mentioned sometimes, but we would always see this as a means to an end (ie to provide more homes for low- income Londoners). Also innovation is mentioned – this has been, and remains, a key part of our culture. We innovate in the face of difficulty.

Image: Reverend Bruce Kenrick, who founded Notting Hill Housing Trust in 1963.

How have you noticed strategy change over time in your organisation? What have been the major influences? 

Comment below or tweet @KateDaviesNHHT.

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Kate Davies
Kate Davies

After obtaining a Master’s degree in Sociology, Kate Davies got her first job in Housing by chance. She embraced the opportunity it gave her to make a difference to people’s lives. In this stimulating milieu and while acquiring further qualifications, Kate’s career quickly progressed. She has now held management positions for over 30 years in both Housing Associations and Local Authorities. During that time, the nature of her role as leader has changed. The authoritative, handing-down management model of yesterday stopped working as the workforce became diverse, younger and more receptive to a consultative approach.